If you live in a snowy climate—this year who doesn’t!—March 1 is sort of like winter’s hump-month. Ever so slightly (especially since yet another widespread snow dump is in the forecast) the anticipation starts to grow about resuming outside workouts. Of course, some just ignore the elements, but many more prefer the forced heat comfort and stable footing of the great indoors—until right about now when with help from spring training being in full swing and the professional golf tours broadcasting from 80-degree courses, the outside itch starts to creep in.
Best of all, daylight savings just a day away – literally a light at the end of the tunnel!
Ride the March adrenaline uptick and allow yourself to get excited about the great outdoors again. But while you are at it, take the time to think about how you are going to re-purpose your snow shoveling time. Train for a distance running/cycling race? Recommit to tennis/golf? Get to the batting cage and join a softball team?
It’s pedestrian to mark the shift as the end of hibernation, but with the epic winter so many have endured it seems appropriate. A quick review, that bright thing in the sky is the sun and that green stuff under your feet is grass.
My post yesterday railed on the pathetic, blatant, ANTI-health promoting messaging I witnessed a teacher direct to her students on a playground. Thankfully, today we are back on the sunny side of the street, for it is with great enthusiasm I report recent research that shows unquestioned evidence that school-aged kids can be motivated to engage in physical activity by any adult who takes the time to offer encouragement, regardless of the adult’s own level of fitness or skill proficiency.
In the study, self-identified low fit and low skilled adults charged with supervising recess at a cluster of elementary schools were recognized by the kids as the one’s most influential in getting them to play every day. This proves what many of us have known anecdotally, that to kids, an adult doesn’t need to be an accomplished athlete or uber-fit to inspire them to be active. An adult simply needs to offer encouragement!
It also should dispel any anxiety adults have about their ‘qualification’ to inspire/motivate engagement, particularly if they perceive themselves (or are) low-fit or low-skilled. Kids DO respond to encouragement to play even when it’s from someone who may lack the skill to do the same.
While recess on a school playground is a nearly failsafe, barrier-free, ‘automatic’, activity environment, actual engagement can’t be taken for granted since millions of kids across the country don’t get the daily minimum of 60 minutes.
Find the chance to make a difference, today.
While on a school playground yesterday, I watched a 5th grade teacher set the physical activity advocacy movement back to its dark age.
After making it abundantly clear the playground was the last place she wanted to be and kickball the last thing she wanted to be dealing with—It was too hot (actually, a perfect high 70s), too dirty (just swept), too boring (fun), a waste of time (ah, no)…—the abysmal start deteriorated. Seeing she wasn’t worth any guidance, a couple of the kids began to divide teams. Nice!, I thought, except she couldn’t leave that alone and redistributed them—a total ‘in your face’ to the students. Then, she umpired the game from her chair under a tree a field’s length away from the class. Hmm, interesting. No surprise, her calls were grossly mis-judged and not according to the rules. When the kids respectfully explained the correct rules, they were admonished to ‘Sit Down And Think About It.’
Confused, perplexed, yet compliant, the kids took their seat. I could only guess what they were Thinking About. The game turned into five kids kicking the ball amongst themselves because in but a few minutes because everyone else was sitting along the sideline ‘Thinking About It’! Thankfully, the bell finally rang and the kids fled.
And we wonder why so many are under-active…
Maryland lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would prohibit minors from purchasing or possessing energy drinks containing 71 or more milligrams of caffeine (and other ingredients), and also remove these drinks from vending machines.
Pause for applause.
71 milligrams of caffeine (approximately 8-ounces of coffee) is nearly double the recommended limit for minors, but the devil is in the detail of the ‘other,’ often overlooked ingredients, especially Taurine, Guarana and Panax Ginseng, each its own stimulant. Guarana itself contains caffeine that is NOT included in the caffeine count. Net/net, the 71 milligrams listed is inaccurately low. Besides stimulants, these drinks are also high in calories and sugar so could contribute to weight gain.
Equally disturbing is how these products can message/enable unhealthy lifestyle habits in kids. Most of us find our way to caffeine at some point in our lives, which in moderation appears to be safe and benign compared to other chemicals along the substance spectrum, but the aggressive marketing can be TOO effective in luring kids to the appeal of chemical reinforcement. It’s just the wrong message! Helping kids form healthy lifestyle habits requires teaching the difference, providing daily opportunities for healthful activity and monitoring their consumption. Since it can be just as easy for kids to learn to live healthy as unhealthy, we need to err on the side of…healthy!
Some may balk at governmental dictation of product consumption, and others concerned with choosing our battles with kids may wonder if this is one to fight. Yep, this is definitely worth any ensuing power struggle. Here’s to the fuddy-duddy’s getting a win.
Any activity is better than no activity BUT the more it is achievement-purposeful, the stronger your motivation to keep doing it.
Purposeful exercise provides a backbone for our effort by targeting intentional fitness or motor skill improvement. The opposite is ‘just’ exercise, risky since ‘today I’m just going to do some cardio’ or ‘today I’m just going to lift a few weights’ doesn’t give our motivation anything solid to sink its teeth into. Weightless and without definition it’s impossible to recognize progress, other than just doing some cardio or just lifting some weights. Over time, our stick-to-it motivation erodes because we just don’t remember the point.
Life may dictate occasions of time-limited exercise, but this kind of ‘just’ is benign for being temporary. Not knowing how to frame achievement other than radical body transformation causes the dangerous kind. The (unrealistic) results we don’t realize bring disappointment we protect ourselves from repeating by conceding to a ‘just’ approach—but generic intent drains already shallow motivation by not providing the solid footing that purpose cements.
Don’t short change your life quality by approaching activity from anything less than what purposefully (and optimally) strengthens your heart and muscles and improves your motor skills, and frames your achievement accordingly.
Dare I say, just do it…purposefully.
Asked the new gym member to his trainer about being on the treadmill before their session began.
Knowing that some is good and more is better, this physical activity thing is pretty failsafe. Safety considered, the only mistake in doing it is not doing it – the more of this (and that!) the better.
FRIDAY FOOTPRINT FLASH – Sad to see the Olympics end
Despite critics who roil that the commercialized branding of the Olympics tarnishes the ideals of amateur competition, each games provides the wow of the extraordinary, the human-bests in feats of skill, strength, power, and grace, and a reminder that it’s the athletes themselves who won’t allow the games to erode to anything less.
The innocent charm of say Squaw Valley, or Innsbruck or even the more recent Salt Lake City is a bygone given the realities of a post 9-11 world, and for some athletes true amateurism HAS given way to training subsidies, cash for winning medals, and sponsorship or endorsement opportunities, but the vast majority of Olympians won’t come close to signing with anyone – except maybe a coach to guide them through their next competition cycle.
Don’t let the bright lights of the shiny new buildings fool you, for every one Olympian who becomes a household name and guests on late night talk shows, hundreds more will return to their humble homes and a training regime fueled ONLY by an unrelenting passion for their sport of choice.
To the critics, the athletes themselves remind us it’s the human side of the chase that makes the chase. And it’s from the athletes we learn perhaps the most important ideal of the games—that life isn’t meant to be a spectator sport. Nope! It’s meant for participation, but that can mean sacrifice for the dedication and commitment it takes to play out passion.
At the top of the next hour somewhere in the world, an aspiring Olympian is answering their 5am alarm clock. Go get ‘em, Sport! I plan to watch for you in Rio de Janeiro, Pyeonghang, Tokyo…
Chunking activity minutes – even 10 minutes at a time – prevents disease, enhances life quality and helps sustain balanced energy (weight management).
So chunk away! But accumulate as many chunks as possible for optimal benefit and to develop resilient motivation. It’s no more complicated than the more activity you do the greater the benefit, and since your motivation feeds off achievement, this means the easier it becomes to do more, more often.
Chunking activity itself is achievement because it means you have completed the daily activity engagement directive. Add to it the achievement of (multiple examples of) self-improvement that results from engaging in more activity and your motivation pumps to new heights.
Sustain getting some activity by tracking your sum. But dont be surprised when this leads you to getting some more, and more after that. No doubt, some is good, but sum is best.
Last week, US Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy pledged to a Senate committee that obesity prevention would be a top priority if confirmed.
Even though other Surgeon Generals have attended to obesity, Dr. Murthy’s declaration is landmark as ‘priority’ increases intent, which increases the likelihood of outcomes. While self-management is imperative to making healthful lifestyle decisions, supportive federal initiatives and policies can be key enablers.
My short policy wish list is mandating increased time for school-based physical activity programming and that ALL physical activity programming personnel are highly competent (e.g., afterschool and recreation staff), and creating pathways for shared-use agreements between schools and city/county recreation facilities/programming.
I suppose I can’t set the agenda, but if you read this Dr. Murthy adopting any one would help fight the good fight. At the least, I take comfort hoping we get to add another one to our team!
Awe, it happens to the best of us. One day we are on top of our workout world feeling and seeing gains, then the next and next few after that it’s as if our body declares war on itself and logjams any/all progress. Ugh!
Don’t panic – hitting a plateau is perfectly normal. Our body’s adaptation to the work we ask of it means energy efficiency catches up with workload leading to fewer bangs from the buck, if you will, from exercise. This doesn’t mean we are yielding less health protection, but it can mean the rate of weight loss, strength gains, or motor skill improvement slows. Frustrating for sure, but find the sunny side of the street again with just slight adjustments to your routine AND your approach to your routine.
First, ensure your engagement is achievement-oriented. This means doing cardio within your target heart rate zone, and using enough weight in strength training to overload your muscles. Any slips here are easily correctable.
Second, adjust the energy demand of your workouts by adding sprint bursts to your cardio and burn-out sets to your strength training. Sprint bursts are short intervals where you (safely) ‘sprint’ during cardio exercise. The length of bursts depends upon your fitness level, but even 10 seconds can be effective. After doing cardio at your usual intensity level for a specified time duration add a 10-second sprint (by increasing the mph if you are on the treadmill, for example), e.g., after each 5 minutes. The burst requires your physiology to kick in differently than what is required to sustain your usual intensity, and this different draw of energy catalyzes your metabolism – wakes it up, if you will.
A burn-out weightlifting set is completing as many low weight repetitions as possible of a particular lift, e.g., bench press, lat pull down, bicep curl. For example, on a day you have focused upon chest exercises, select a low weight you know you can successfully lift for several repetitions, and do as many presses as you can. For optimal safety, use a weight machine rather than free weights, especially if you don’t have a spotter or are a beginning lifter. Add one burn-out set at the end of each day’s lifting (for each muscle group focused upon that day).
Like cardio sprint bursts, burn-out sets draw upon energy differently than routine lifting, which can remind your physiology to keep growing your muscles.
Third, create different energy around your routine to re-charge your activity joojoo. Really!
Wear mis-matched socks…put your clothes on in reverse order – right to left rather than left to right…run your route in the opposite direction…listen to a different type of music…ask a chatty friend to join you then focus on your conversation…begin your routine 10 minutes earlier or later…obtain a free pass to a different gym for a week…leave your shoes outside overnight preferably tied to a tree…park in a different section of the gym parking area…switch out your shoelaces…
And, don’t for a minute think the power of joojoo is any less scientific than sprint bursts or burn-out sets. After all, the Sir of energy himself, Isaac Newton, confirmed as much in his ‘Energy can be neither created or destroyed, but can change form’ discovery. Said simply, energy is permanently accessible, but we may need to use different means to draw it out of hiding.